ROCHESTER, NY --- The 2014 Atlantic Hockey Association Tournament semifinals and final return to Blue Cross Arena this weekend. Canisius and Niagara were the last two teams to punch their tickets to the semifinals, doing so in three games over Bentley and Air Force, respectively. Robert Morris and Mercyhurst swept their playoff series against UConn and Holy Cross, respectively.
The Atlantic Hockey semifinals will be played Friday and the championship game is set for 7 p.m. Saturday. Mercyhurst will take on Canisius at 4 p.m. followed by Robert Morris and Niagara battling in the second semifinal at 7:30 p.m.
No. 1 Mercyhurst
Location: Erie, Pa.
Record: 21-12-7 overall, 17-4-6 AHA
Past Tournament Championships: 2001, 2003, and 2005
Head Coach: Rick Gotkin (Brockport State '82)
Captains: Nick Jones (C), Daniel O'Donoghue (A), Matthew Zay (A)
Leading Scorers: Matthew Zay (17-25-42), Daniel O'Donoghue (14-27-41), Ryan Misiak (13-25-38), Nick Jones (9-23-32), Daniel Bahntge (15-16-31)
Starting Goaltender: Jimmy Sarjeant (18-4-6, 2.42/.932)
The regular season champions of the Atlantic Hockey Association were spectacular in all facets of the game as the Lakers ran through the league gauntlet. Leading scorer Matthew Zay returned from injury last weekend after missing four games. He tallied a goal and an assist on the weekend.
The Lakers certainly have their share of high-end talent, but the offensive balance and depth is remarkable. Seven skaters are in double digits for goal scoring and 10 Lakers have found the back of the net at least eight times.
No. 7 Canisius
Location: Buffalo, NY
Record: 16-20-3 overall, 11-13-3 AHA
Past Tournament Championships: 2013
Head Coach: Dave Smith (Ohio State '92)
Captains: Ryan Bohrer
Leading Scorers: Kyle Gibbons (15-22-37), Ralph Cuddemi (13-15-28), Ben Danford (5-22-27), Cody Freeman (10-14-24)
Starting Goaltender: Tony Capobianco (12-13-2, 2.75/.916)
The Golden Griffins are back in Rochester to defend their tournament championship, thanks to another run through the first two rounds of the tournament from the No. 7 seed.
Canisius was staring elimination in the face, but rallied from a three-goal deficit to force overtime on Saturday night before eventually winning in double overtime. A night later, the Griffs finished off No. 2 Bentley with a 3-2 win, thanks to a hat trick from Mitch McCrank.
No. 5 Robert Morris
Location: Moon Township, Pa.
Record: 17-17-5 overall, 13-9-5 AHA
Past Tournament Championships:
Head Coach: Derek Schooley (Western Michigan '94)
Captains: Colin South
Leading Scorers: Cody Wydo (26-21-47), Zac Lynch (18-23-41), Scott Jacklin (14-19-33), Greg Gibson (12-16-28)
Starting Goaltender: Dalton Izyk (3-1-0, 2.39/.929)
The Colonials went on quite a roll from mid-January to mid-February, going 9-1-2 over that span, but RMU went 0-2-1 to close out the regular season. Derek Schooley's team was forced to a game three against Army in the first round, but upset No. 4 UConn in two games in the quarterfinals.
Everyone knows about Cody Wydo who paces the offense, but an interesting storyline entering this weekend is the goaltending situation. Dalton Izyk has taken over for Terry Shafer between the pipes, starting with game three against Army. The freshman has allowed just two goals over the last three games after coming in mid-game for Shafer. He has a 0.77 goals against average and a .977 save percentage in that time.
No. 6 Niagara
Location: Niagara, NY
Record: 15-19-5 overall, 11-11-5 AHA
Past Tournament Championships: 2000, 2004 and 2008
Head Coach: Dave Burkholder (RIT ‘84)
Captains: Ryan Rashid and Kevin Albers
Leading Scorers: Hugo Turcotte (11-16-27), Isaac Kohls (12-12-24), Ryan Rashid (11-10-21), T.J. Sarcona (11-9-20)
Starting Goaltender: Jackson Teichroeb (9-13-3, 2.65/.910)
The Purple Eagles will have to win the conference tournament this weekend if they have plans on making a second straight NCAA Tournament. Dave Burkholder's team received an at-large bid last season, paving the way for the league to get two teams into the big dance for the first team in history.
NU was hit hard by losses to graduation, early departures to the pro ranks and a key player being kicked off the team. That being said, this is a team that is better than its record and could challenge this weekend, especially if Jackson Teichroeb plays to the best of his abilities between the pipes.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.